We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day – the venal fallible state is vastly too powerful edition

As far as Hancock was concerned, anyone who fundamentally disagreed with his approach [to Covid] was mad and dangerous and needed to be shut down. His account shows how quickly the suppression of genuine medical misinformation – a worthy endeavour during a public health crisis – morphed into an aggressive government-driven campaign to smear and silence those who criticised the response. Aided by the Cabinet Office, the Department of Health harnessed the full power of the state to crush individuals and groups whose views were seen as a threat to public acceptance of official messages and policy. As early as January 2020, Hancock reveals that his special adviser was speaking to Twitter about ‘tweaking their algorithms’. Later he personally texted his old coalition colleague Nick Clegg, now a big cheese at Facebook, to enlist his help. The former Lib Dem deputy prime minister was happy to oblige.

Such was the fear of ‘anti-vaxxers’ that the Cabinet Office used a team hitherto dedicated to tackling Isis propaganda to curb their influence. The zero-tolerance approach extended to dissenting doctors and academics. The eminent scientists behind the so-called Barrington Declaration, which argued that public health efforts should focus on protecting the most vulnerable while allowing the general population to build up natural immunity to the virus, were widely vilified: Hancock genuinely considered their views a threat to public health.

[…]

Hancock, Whitty and Johnson knew full well that non-medical face masks do very little to prevent transmission of the virus. People were made to wear them anyway because Dominic Cummings was fixated with them; because Nicola Sturgeon liked them; and above all because they were symbolic of the public health emergency.

Isabel Oakeshott, laying out a damning narrative of the government’s response to Covid. Strangely, the linked article’s very feeble final paragraph seems at odds with the listed litany of woe Matt Hancock and his ilk were responsible for.

Race grifters gonna grift

When I first read of the storm-in-a-teacup story of an 83 year old royal aide, Lady Susan Hussey, asking some black woman who runs a charity, Ngozi Fulani “where are you actually from?”… I thought it seemed rather a crass line of questioning in this day and age. Indeed, cringeworthy was the term that came to mind.

But then I saw a picture of Ngozi Fulani (if ever there was a Liverpudlian sounding name… previously known as Marlene Headley) dressed like an extra on the set of some Black Panther movie, suddenly the entire encounter started to look entirely different.

Turns out the woman was cosplaying as an African and yet took umbrage when someone consequently assumed she was African (pro-tip Susan, actual Africans rarely dress like that which should have been a giveaway). The moment Ngozi Fulani started flouncing around announcing how upset she was at such ‘racism’, the response should have been to tell her to grow the hell up and make damn sure she never gets invited to any official functions in the future.

Samizdata quote of the day – Tory doom spiral edition

The Autumn Statement was a tragic miscalculation, the final failure of a project to undo the gravest mistakes of the New Labour era and shift the UK in a more dynamic, more conservative direction. Lacking any meaningful plan for economic growth, and postponing many of the most difficult decisions on spending until after the next election, the Statement passed the costs of a ballooning state onto the productive parts of the economy when disposable incomes are collapsing. It was a victory for the Treasury technocrats who have resisted every attempt to move the UK away from Brownite orthodoxy.

Telegraph editorial

Vranyo

The even interesting Perun has another very interesting talk titled: How lies destroy armies – Lies, coverups, and Russian failures in Ukraine.

Highly recommended.

The dark core around which Russia’s culture revolves

Kazakh expat Azamat Junisbai has some very interesting observations seeking to explain wide support in Russia for the war against Ukraine.

Russian society famously underwent extreme upheavals in the 20th century. Revolutions, World Wars, emergence and collapse of the USSR – the dizzying magnitude of change and disruption is hard to exaggerate. Yet, amidst all the turmoil, one part of the Russian worldview persisted.

The remarkably stable and enduring phenomenon transcending different historical periods and regime types is the self-conception of Russia as a great power that brings good to those around it and Russian people as bearers of superior culture and morality. Deeply internalized, the idea of its own benevolence has long permeated and shaped Russian society. In this narrative, unlike the old European powers guilty of ruthless colonial conquest, Russia is a selfless bringer of culture, prosperity, and order.

The view of Russia as a big brother bestowing its blessings on the lesser people around it is ubiquitous among Russians of all political persuasions. In this narrative, Russia’s neighbours are perpetually indebted to it. The relationship is always unequal.

The word “gift” features prominently. The gifts include Russian language, literature, music, and art. But also science and, even, modernity itself. Naturally, in this worldview, Russians are superior and those on the receiving end of Russia’s largesse are expected to be grateful.

Russia’s view of Central Asians is unabashedly and unapologetically racist, of the “we taught you how to piss standing up” variety. Russia’s long-standing view of Ukrainians is more complex but equally pernicious and condescending.

Highly recommended, read the whole thing.

The slow-motion disintegration of the Tory Party

There is an unintentionally insightful article on Unherd by Will Lloyd called Meet Britain’s radical New Right, written from a predictably wet Tory perspective. We are told conservatives with what are fairly conventional conservative views are radical, and moreover new. And that tells us much about orthodox high status opinion in the UK.

I should have stopped reading at “Brexit has failed”.

For most voters, Brexit was about sovereignty according to Ashcroft exit poll, meaning Westminster has nowhere to hide. So, pace Will Lloyd & Nigel Farage alike, we at least got that, mission accomplished. Brexit wasn’t what you thought it was and it still isn’t. What comes next is not ‘Brexit’, it’s just politics; there is no undoing Brexit this side of perpetual civil war.

Much as the author sneers at the Right (whatever that means when not talking about France circa 1790), Jeremy Hunt’s “Conservative” Party is not small-c conservative in any shape, way, or form. The Tories have driven a stake through their own heart, ending any pretence of being a ‘broad church’, because if they were, Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng would still be in Downing Street in spite of straying from the Blue Blairite orthodoxy. Hell, they were defenestrated in no small part for trying to put the top rate of tax back to where it was for 12 years under the last Labour government. That’s radical apparently.

If you want less tax; even slightly less state control of anything at all; no taking the knee; no eco-pandering to the Net Zero cult; an energy policy that allows fracking and expanding North Sea production rather than one that could have been written by Vladimir Putin; no talk of ‘reparations’ (climate or otherwise), why would anyone who wants those things vote Tory? No reason, and they won’t.

The party membership voted for Truss but they got Sunak anyway. Okay, message received, everyone now knows what the party nomenklatura & apparatchiks think of the rank-and-file party membership. The members might as well have voted for Larry the Cat as party leader for all the difference it made, at least he’s still in Downing Street.

Voting Tory in last general election was essential when the alternative was Corbyn, the most odious mainstream politician since Oswald Mosley (for some of the same reasons). But Keir Starmer is just another dreary Blairite, he’s Jeremy Hunt without the unfortunate China connections. Then the choice is vote for Blue Blairites who likes high taxes and ruinous green policies, or Red Blairites who likes high taxes, ruinous green policies, and don’t know what a woman is. On the plus side, Labour have Diane Abbott, who can take over Boris’ role providing comic relief.

So, I will be voting Reform UK, because at this point, I couldn’t care less which flavour of technocratic Blairite is in Downing Street. Jeremy Hunt and his ilk can get stuffed. Sure, Labour will get in and it won’t be pretty unless ginger growlers are your thing. But perhaps, just perhaps, utterly burning the Tories to the ground might let something better emerge from the ashes.

Will Lloyd no doubt thinks that’s crazy talk, given that without any detectable irony he wrote of this ‘radical new right’:

“Do not expect them to sculpt a future of fair dealing, pragmatism, patience, moderation or high intelligence”

Imagine thinking the soaking wet dunderheads running the Tory Party as of late 2022 represent even a single one of those presumed virtues. It’s not called the Stupid Party for nothing.

Remember, remember

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot

Interesting how the significance of those words changed over the years to be less about the Gunpowder Plot of 5 November 1605, and more about attitudes towards contemporary politics.

More about notions like “V” than the actual historical Guy Fawkes.

Quite possibly the greatest political broadcast ever

Mesmerising 😀

My fav bit was “I do not have a single constructive proposal!”

I’ll drink to that…

Samizdata can now legally drink in any state in the USA 😀

The ‘Tony Soprano’ theory of Russian geopolitics

Much has been written about what underpins the current war in Ukraine; how Russian revanchism is driven by Russkiy Mir ideology, the concept of the ‘Russian World’. This means all parts of what was the Russian Empire must once again be ruled from Moscow (the ‘New Rome’) for Russia to be spiritually and politically whole. It is very much like Nazi notions of “Germany is anywhere there are Germans” with a bit of lebensraum theory thrown in as well.

What makes the Russkiy Mir concept a bit more ‘inclusive’ than the Nazi version of Herrenvolk versus Untermensch, is the insistence that Russia also includes people who are said to be Russified, such as Chechens, Georgians, Moldavians, Buryats, Yakuts etc. etc…and of course all Ukrainians. If you read RIA Novosti (aimed at Russians) rather than Russia Today (aimed at foreign useful idiots), these are the official state narratives proffered day after day.

And the notion that is driving or at least justifying Russian aggression is true.

But there is another way to see this, not so much an alternative but rather a very complimentary perspective. Even if “Russkiy Mir” as both context and meta-context internally justifies Russian actions to Russians, is this the real driver pushing Putin and his supporters at the highest levels of Russia’s establishment? The push certainly isn’t “Ukraine trying to join NATO” (which Germany made clear it would always veto), the “Nazi government in Kyiv” hilarity or assorted biolab absurdities, but rather the ‘Tony Soprano’ theory of Russian geopolitics (Tony Soprano being a fictional mafia boss from the American TV show The Sopranos).

I have seen many people suggest forms of this but Matt Steinglass provides one version that is useful and succinct even if I think it is not entirely right:

In the Sopranos analogy, a business, let’s say a chain of groceries, at the edge of his territory decided they were going to stop paying protection and start trusting the police.

Tony Soprano obviously cannot tolerate this. It’s not just the loss of revenue: it’s that letting it go unpunished tells everybody else who’s paying him protection money that they can leave, too. So Tony decides to hit the groceries, take out the owner and ensure a more pliable one is installed, to send a message to anybody else who might get ideas.

Unfortunately it turns out the grocery clerks are packing shotguns and Tony’s soldiers, who were overconfident, get shot up and retreat. Now Tony has worse problems: he’s lost the grocery chain and he looks weak. Yet he may have inflicted enough damage that his other businesses hesitate to leave; who needs the trouble? Similarly, Ukraine’s economy has shrunk by a third.

Anyway, the point is that if you think about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an old-fashioned attempt at territorial conquest, it makes no sense. States don’t gain power by conquering territory anymore, this isn’t the 18th or 19th century. But if you think of it as a mob hit to intimidate states from exiting the protection racket that delivers corrupt rent streams to Russia’s ruling kleptocrats, then it at least made sense–until Ukraine fought back.

It is demonstrably untrue that aspirations for territorial conquest are a thing of the past (see China often stated threats towards Taiwan), but Steinglass’ analogy stands nevertheless. Certainly Ukrainians who understand Russia far better than most Russians understand Ukraine have been making this kind of ‘gangster’ analogy for quite some time. However, too many people in the West have been mesmerised by Russia Today narratives and ingrained Americocentric delusions to look at this from a more local perspective.

If grandma had balls, she’d be grandpa

Dear Noah, thank you for your last contribution to this discussion. I particularly appreciate the title of your last piece given how neatly it maps onto a similar phrase about how “Real Communism hasn’t been tried”.

The thrust of your position, which is shared by a surprising number of people I respect and hold in high regard in Western heterodox circles, is that “if we could negotiate with Putin, wouldn’t that be better than war?” And I agree: if we could negotiate with Putin, that would be better than than war. But I’m afraid it brings to mind a rather “transphobic” saying we have in Russia:

“If grandma had balls, she’d be grandpa.”

Forgive me, but I’m afraid you’ve forgotten who we are talking about.

In 2008, shortly after Russia’s invasion of South Ossetia, Vladimir Putin explained that “Crimea is Ukrainian. It is not disputed territory. Russia has long recognised and accepted the borders of today’s Ukraine”. When pushed, he further explained that [the suggestion that Russia would invade Crimea] “reeks of provocation”.

Three months before the annexation of Crimea, in December 2013, Vladimir Putin told journalists that the idea of Russia sending troops into any part of Ukraine, including Crimea, was “complete nonsense that cannot and will not happen”.

Konstantin Kisin observing that anyone arguing for good faith negotiations with Putin is in the grips of delusional wishful thinking.

The Tory Party: controlled flight into terrain

The Tory party has become ‘culturally inbred’ and starts to resemble the deranged Hillbillies of Hollywood myth, just with shirts from Jermyn Street and a better wine list. People like Crispin Blunt et al seem to believe they have a natural right to be in charge because… well, just because. Even marginally democratic input like the Conservative Party members choosing Liz Truss is intolerable as they wanted Rishi Sunak. This of course also explains why Brexit drove them into the florid stage of insanity, given the oiks simply refused to do what their betters had told them to do.

So, Liz Truss is now a sock-puppet for her political rival, a PM in office but not in power. Perhaps a stronger woman would have resisted the pressure and turned things around even at this late stage, but we now know Liz Truss is not such a woman. She seems to have naively assumed that having forced out Boris (who to be fair set the stage of this entire shitshow), the same people would then abide by the Party membership’s wishes and allow her to actual govern.

The absurdly named Conservative Party is in the midst of a CFIT (controlled flight into terrain) due to its internal ideological contradictions. Far from being a broad church, the Wets, better described as Blue Blairites, people with more in common with LibDems or pre-Corbyn Labour Party than the free-market low tax wing of the party, have decided only they are fit to be in power.

That’s it, one hundred years on from 1922 the Tories as currently understood are doomed. They need to crash and burn and indeed they will. The Labour government that will follow is going to be economically and culturally even worse (which given how crap the Tories have been will a remarkable achievement, but I believe Labour is absolutely up to the task). But the destruction of the Conservative Party we know has to happen. We have just arrived at the end point of where 30 years of “lesser evil” voting has led us.

Right then, what eventually comes next 5 to 10 years from now after Labour take their turn to trash the nation? Hard to say but at least we can’t blame the EU now. Perhaps something that calls itself the Conservative Party under Kemi Badanoch will arise from the ashes? A Conservative Party that is actually is a conservative party? Or maybe Reform UK? Perhaps something else entirely? I really don’t know.

Addendum: And Truss is gone. She had some of the right ideas but proved to be as useful as a chocolate teapot politically. Perhaps that is unkind, and given the now toxic internal contradictions in the Party have fully manifested. It was a poison chalice no matter who was the leader. The enforcers of Blue Blairite orthodoxy are determined to destroy the party and that is that, all we can do it watch the unedifying spectacle unfold.